Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for February, 2017

Slice of Mardi Gras

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

tree-streamers

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all! I know that many of you have heard the news about the tragedy at the Endymion parade on Saturday night. My girls and my sister’s family were just blocks away. They didn’t hear anything until they started getting frantic texts from friends and family. When I spoke to my cousin’s wife who is an emergency room doctor, she said the system they have set up for dealing with these types of emergencies worked. She received texts. Hospitals around the city were prepared and let emergency responders know which ones could take patients. She said it was handled smoothly.

Accidents are scary, but they are accidents. There is no predicting when something awful could happen. So I didn’t hesitate to travel to New Orleans on Sunday to meet up with my family to celebrate.

My sister has a friend who lives near St. Charles and the parade route. Perfect jumping off place complete with clean bathrooms, food, drink, and the sweetest yellow lab you have ever seen. Our corner on St. Charles was crowded, about 5 people deep. We were surrounded by families. When my sister caught a little container of Playdough, she handed it to some little girls nearby. They played with it for hours making beads, fake purple noses, and whatever else their creative minds could conjure up. I enjoyed watching them.

horses

Throws are a huge part of Mardi Gras. These include beads, of course, but there are also unusual throws like feather boas, cups, footballs, stuffed animals, and more. I don’t work too hard for throws. But I do hold my hands over my head. It’s all part of protecting your head from the wayward bead. Once I was looking at a guy on a float holding an ugly stuffed rat. He must’ve read my mind, “Who would want that ugly rat!?”, and he threw it right to me. Yes, it’s going to the classroom as a new class pet.

Mardi Gras crowd.  You see it all!

Mardi Gras crowd. You see it all!

The best story of the day was when my nephew and his dad were throwing the football across the street between parades. The football flew over my nephew and landed near some horse poop. Earlier, the people around that very horse poop had covered it with a box top and warned marching bands, “Watch out!” But when the football landed near it, Jack turned right around and said, “No way.” My brother-in-law retrieved the football and minutes later, a man in a dragon suit crossed the road to offer wipes to clean it. My sister posted this picture on Instagram with this caption, “Why did the dragon cross the road? To bring us a wipe for our football that landed in horse poop.”

mardi-gras-dragon

To me, this is the spirit of Mardi Gras. It’s a community event with a community pride. Yes, there are rowdies and drunks and accidents, but there is also a spirit of fun and celebration. I’ll be back next year!

Read Full Post »

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

critical-thinking-digilit-sunday

Last week as I was reading DigiLitSunday posts, I found these questions on Fran McVeigh’s post.

Do we REALLY want students to be critical thinkers?

Then how are we encouraging “critical thinking” every day in our classrooms?

How are we REALLY encouraging independent thinkers and workers?

Tough questions that I contemplated all week.  Am I really encouraging critical thinking in my classroom every day?  To answer this question, I looked at my various assignments during the week.  On Monday, we watched a Flocabulary video on The Voting Rights Act and answered these questions:

1. Connection to other movements: Think of a historical event or movement that is similar to the Selma marches. How are these events similar?

2. Connection to current events: Are racial equality and voting rights still issues in the US today? How have these issues changed since 1965? In what ways are they the same?

3. Connection to civic participation: Why is the right to vote an important right to protect?

I have to credit Flocabulary because not one of these questions elicits the exact same answer from every student.  When we look for questions that encourage critical thinking, we must wonder if the answer will be the same for every student.  Granted these questions also depend on quite a bit of prior knowledge.  Not all of my students have a clear understanding of voting rights or what race relations are like today.  Some of them are quite sheltered from the news and that’s OK with me.  They’re young.  But my older students, those in 5th and 6th grade, really thought deeply about these questions and offered some thoughtful responses.

What is important to me as a teacher of gifted students is to open up the door for communication and for critical thinking.  I have to be willing to hear different responses, and not always ones I agree with.  Critical thinkers are active, and our challenge as their teachers is to keep them thinking and questioning and wondering.

One way I do this is assigning reader responses.  There is no one right way to respond to a book for my students.  We have a chart on the wall that lists multiple options.  These options include: write about the theme, relate to a character, connect the book to the larger world, etc.

This week a few of my students are reading Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels, Smile, Sisters, and Drama.  One student was appalled that Drama was placed on the second grade shelf because it is at a second grade AR level.  “This book is not appropriate for second graders!”  She explained that the book deals with the sensitive subject of sexuality.  A selection from her reader response:

“This book can relate to the world because just like Jesse people know their sexuality, but can’t tell their friends or family because they’ll be teased or judged. In Jesse’s case his father doesn’t accept his older brother Justin because he’s gay, so Jesse is afraid to tell anyone because they might not accept him.”

She went on to rant about the recent controversy over transgender students and bathroom use.  Reading with a critical eye as well as having an open policy for student responses helped this student not only relate to the book, but also to express her own opinions about the subject.

My students are not just writing for an audience of one.  They write on a blog we share with other gifted classes.  When they write about their own thoughts, they trust that others will read them with the understanding that we are all trying to write in a way that best expresses our own thoughts.  A blog space is just right for experimenting with thinking and writing.    A critical thinker understands that others have different assumptions and different perspectives, so in the blog space, we must make it safe for those expressions.

Thanks, Fran, for posing those questions and for helping me realize that critical thinking is purposeful and intentional every day.

I am off to New Orleans Mardi Gras on Sunday, so I am posting early.  Please link up when you can.

Read Full Post »

Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

morning-on-the-bayou

Good Morning Haiku

1. Light streams on bayou
wake up trees to stand tall for
perfect reflection.

2. Frothy milk swirling
atop French roast coffee drips,
sweet cafe au lait.

3. Breezy walk with Anne-
dogs sniff, pull, and interrupt
our conversation.

4. Breakfast at Victor’s,
savor sweet potato pancakes,
crispy bacon.

5. A day like today,
watering is not a chore;
Praise gentle morning.

–Margaret Simon

Read Full Post »

Poetry Friday is with Karen Edmisten.

Poetry Friday is with Karen Edmisten.

As we continue our journey through Here We Go, the latest Poetry Friday Anthology book from Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong, we encountered a totally timely poem by David Bowles, “Border Kid”.

You’re a border kid, a foot on either bank.
Your ancestors crossed this river a thousand times.
No wall, no matter how tall, can stop your heritage
From flowing forever, like the Rio Grande itself.

(from Border Kid by David Bowles)

We looked at similes and played with using them in our own poems. Emily wrote this sweet poem about Home.

Home
by Emily

Home is like a safe haven
where you are watched over and protected.

Home is like a nurturing mother
always taking care of you.

Home is like a vault,
holding all of your secrets.

Home is like a best friend
supporting you when you need it.

Home is like an answer
to your echo is a lonely room.

Home is like a book
with memories and stories to tell.

Home is like a gentle hand
reaching out to help.

Home is more that just a house.

I am learning more every day about writing poetry. As I participate in Laura Shovan’s daily challenge, I realize that poetry can be elusive. I try to follow the stream of my words, but sometimes they go astray. I am trying to be brave, write brave, and bravely post. The community is gentle and kind. Even when I bash my own poem with qualifiers like, “I am no good at rhyme,” someone finds something positive to say. I know the importance of critique groups. But when we write, especially poetry, we are vulnerable. The intentions of Laura’s challenge are different. We accept that it’s a drafting workshop. I try to apply this learning to my own classroom coaching. You are not going to hit the mark with every poem, but I encourage my students to give each exercise a shot and to post on our class blog. Writing can only get better with more writing.

I posted a poem that I wrote for #tenfoundwords to Today’s Little Ditty padlet. This month’s challenge from Jeannine Atkins is to write a personification poem about an emotion. I wrote this ditty about Mindfulness.

Mindfulness

Make an active mind, non-active
Re-awaken your innermost self.
Seek a word of peace,
Blow away resistance, fear, and dread.
Engage your attention to now,
Hold on with compassion and understanding.
The space left open is for love.

love-space

Read Full Post »

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

It’s Dr. Seuss week at one of my schools, so each day is a different dress-up day. Last week I was sick for a few days and then there was the Beta convention, so I missed out on seeing some of my students all week. I wanted to plan better. I got so far as to order yellow mustaches and a used copy of The Lorax. I didn’t put together a full costume, but I let each student choose a mustache style. The rule was you had to wear your mustache while we read The Lorax. Little did I know the thing would tickle every time I spoke. But it made for a festive way to celebrate, nevertheless.

Mrs. Simon's Loraxes

Mrs. Simon’s Loraxes

Following this selfie, we got down to the real business of criticycles. I want my students to be ready for the March Slice of Life Challenge. They’ve been writing a slice each week, but their writing lacks elaboration and interest. I pulled out the sticky notes. I projected a student’s recent post and asked that student to read aloud his/her writing. On the sticky notes, we made symbols for critiquing (+ for something positive, ^ for something to change, and ? for further questions). Following the criticycle session, my students were motivated to return to their posts and edit.

I had forgotten how powerful peer review can be. For whatever reason, we hadn’t done it in a while. My students were receptive to their classmates’ ideas and were motivated to make their writing stronger. I just stood by and watched as they discussed their writing in a meaningful way. I need to remember that sometimes all it takes is a yellow mustache and blue sticky note to turn readers into writers.

DrSeuss_Lorax

Read Full Post »

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Years ago, my colleagues and I created a monthly enrichment day for our gifted 6th graders to combat underachievement. This year we selected the theme of Communication. Each student or group of students were charged with asking a question about something they were interested in communicating. Emily asked if elderly in resident homes are lonely. She assumed the answer was yes and followed her research to discover that loneliness can actually lead to death. She was moved to do something about it.

Emily decided to set up a field trip to a local retirement home. With a little direction, she called the retirement home activity director, contacted our gifted supervisor for permission, and created a Valentine’s Day activity. I have never seen her so empowered and so excited. The night before the field trip, she hand made 34 Valentines to give to the residents.

My colleagues were more than cooperative in getting their students to the retirement home. The students quickly found an elderly resident to spend time with. As I circled around taking pictures, I was pleased to see these young kids talking freely with their new friends.

garden-view-1

jaci-and-junie

On Wednesday at our monthly Wow (Way Out Wednesday) meeting, Emily compiled the surveys. She also put together a video of one of the residents talking about her life and how she liked living at Garden View. Emily’s presentation about this experience is coming together, but it’s taken on a new direction. She discovered that the elderly at Garden View are not lonely. They live in a community there. Activities are planned for them. People visit often. They are well cared for.

Beyond the original intent of Emily’s project, she has discovered that relationships at any age are important. She discovered that she can influence others and spread kindness. When we as teachers take the lessons out of our hands and put it into those of our students, they can be difference-makers.

If you are joining the DigiLit conversation today, please leave your link below.

Read Full Post »

Poetry Friday is with Jone at Check it Out.

Poetry Friday is with Jone at Check it Out.

With apologies to William Carlos Williams, who probably had little idea where his sweet plums poem would lead writers of today. On day 7 of Laura Shovan’s ten found words poetry challenge, my friend and writing group fellow Catherine Flynn wrote an apology poem. I immediately grabbed it as a mentor poem for my students. I also grabbed my copy of Joyce Sidman’s This is Just to Say Poems of Apology and Forgiveness.

this-is-just-to-say-book

This is just to say…
I broke the glass dish
so thoughtfully placed
on the tank of your toilet.

A large spider,
camouflaged in
a clump of flowery
soaps, surprised me
as I washed my hands.
A cryptic tan blotch,
shaped like the head of a shovel,
covered her abdomen.

Forgive me, but
she rattled my nerves.
She scurried away
when I tried to scoop
her into a tissue.
My hand upset the dish,
sending it crashing to the floor.

I didn’t want to kill her.
I wanted to return her to the garden,
where she’d be free to snare flies
in her shimmering web.

printed with permission from the author, Catherine Flynn

Catherine’s poem was written to the same selection of words I wrote snake cinquains last week. Lynzee remembered this and my story of being fearful of snakes, so she wrote this poem (in the voice of Mrs. Simon).

This is just to say,
Your lawn mower has a snake in it,
I was trying to kill it so
I ran it over.

It was a garden snake,
Slithering along the grass
Like a tiny green rope,
TERRIFYING!

Standing out against
The wheat colored grass,
Like a moving weed.

So I panicked,
And grabbed the first thing i touched,
The lawn mower.

I will buy a new one,
If you want.

–Lynzee, 2nd grade

We talked about whether you have ever eaten anything you weren’t supposed to eat. Andrew remembered sticking his finger into the butter. He grinned, “I love butter!”

This is just to say…

I ate the butter
out of the container yesterday.
It was delicious
like caramel chocolate

It was your fault
you left the top
open. Who doesn’t
take that chance?

I hope you have
some left for your
toast. I am so sorry.
I’ll try to buy more.

All I did was
stick my finger
in the butter. It
was out of control.

–Andrew, 4th grade

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »